Stat Attack: The history at stake at the Tour of Flanders

What will the record books say after the Tour of Flanders on Sunday? Here are the figures that could be re-written

Clock19:30, Thursday 28th March 2024
Lotte Kopecky and Mathieu van der Poel can make more history at the Tour of Flanders

© Getty Images

Lotte Kopecky and Mathieu van der Poel can make more history at the Tour of Flanders

Holy Week is upon us and the Tour of Flanders is almost here. In anticipation of one of the best racing days of the season, there are plenty of intriguing statistical stakes to delve into.

First and foremost, all eyes will be on Mathieu van der Poel, as he has the chance to join the greats at the very top of the Flandrien tree if he wins the race for the third time.

Six riders have won it three times in the past: Achiel Buysse, Fiorenzo Magni, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw, and most recently Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara both managed a hat-trick. Three is a surprisingly low figure for the most ever wins in a race like this, and it is indeed the lowest number among all of the Monuments.

Van der Poel also has a chance to win the Tour of Flanders in the rainbow jersey. The last male rider to do that was Peter Sagan in 2016.

Even if Van der Poel was to finish on the podium, he would be setting a record. He has finished on the podium in each of the last four editions. Only one other rider has ever done that at the Ronde. That was Museeuw, who did it between 1993 and 1996. Van der Poel would become the first rider ever to finish on the podium five times in a row.

The Belgian drought and the form book

The Belgians are facing an existential crisis at their own race, as they are currently on a run of six years without a home win in the men's event - a run which is more likely to become seven years with the absence of Wout van Aert.

This is already the worst it has ever been for the Belgians. Four years without success was the longest previous drought when Fabian Cancellara (twice), Alexander Kristoff, and Peter Sagan conspired between 2013 and 2016 to deny the Belgians a victory.

There hasn’t even been a Belgian on the podium for the past two years. That had never happened before in the history of the race. So, facing a third Belgium-less podium in a row, the local pressure will really be on the likes of Tiesj Benoot, Tim Wellens and Jasper Philipsen to save the day.

Before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I had stat-attacked that no male rider had ever won that race and the Tour of Flanders in the same year. We now know that the only rider who can perform that trick this year is Jan Tratnik of Visma-Lease a Bike. Tratnik’s best previous result was a decent but modest 12th in 2022, but with his teammate Van Aert out of the race, perhaps his chances of riding for a victory for himself have now gone up.

Another Van Aert teammate who could win on Sunday is the recent Dwars Door Vlaanderen winner Matteo Jorgenson. He has already shown his impressive versatility by becoming the first-ever rider to win that race and Paris-Nice in the same year. If he wins the Ronde, he would be the sixth rider to double that up with a win in Dwars Door Vlaanderen after Arthur Decabooter, Walter Godefroot, Johan Museeuw, Nick Nuyens and that man again Mathieu van der Poel, who won both in 2022.

Unfortunately, the reigning champion Tadej Pogačar will not be here to defend his title. He’s been too busy smashing his way around the Volta a Catalunya and preparing for the Giro d'Italia to take on Van der Poel in a re-match. It will be the first time since 2015 that the Ronde will not have its champion present, when Fabian Cancellara was unable to defend his 2014 title after breaking two vertebrae at the E3 Prijs the previous week.

Read more: the beginner's guide to the Tour of Flanders

Kopecky and Vos

There is also history to be made in the women’s race, as Lotte Kopecky is gunning for three wins in a row. Mirjam Melchers is the only other rider to have won in two consecutive years, which she managed in 2005 and 2006. Kopecky’s third win would also put her in the record books as the only woman to win the race three times.

Kopecky, like Van der Poel, is the outright favourite to win and will also be wearing the rainbow jersey of World Champion. If she were to win she would be the first since Lizzie Deignan to win the Ronde in rainbows, which was also 2016, the year that Sagan did it - double rainbows!

Former women's Tour of Flanders winners lining up Saturday

The only other female rider to have won the Tour of Flanders as world champion was Marianne Vos in 2013. And Vos will most certainly be there with a chance of spoiling Kopecky’s party. 2013 was the only time she’s ever won this race, and having ridden it 11 times, this is a strikingly poor hit rate for the great Vos.

Nevertheless, given her form already this year, I would not be betting against her. And if we’re all getting worried that Vos is getting on in years a bit now, if she were to win she would not become the oldest-ever winner of the race.

Even though she is now 36, she would still be two years younger than Annmiek van Vleuten was when she won the race for the second time in 2021, ten years after she won her first title. A gap between wins which Vos would be beating if she wins on Sunday.

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